There's this little thing called "editing" that all great artists utilize in one form or another. Whether the field is writing, photography or music, there's always some awareness of the interaction between the artist and the intended audience, which is tested by the honest opinions of people around the artist who provide frank feedback. Unless that artist is Spike Lee.
In filmmaking, editing is the soul of wit, which means that if Spike Lee's new film "The 25th Hour" is an example of his soul, it apparently consists of one of those long, unending hairballs that my cat spends half an hour trying to barf up. Spike needs somebody around him who's not afraid to explain that his crap stinks just like everyone else's. Everything in "The 25th Hour" is too long: every piece of dialogue, every scene, every idea. Spike insists on beating every point into the ground and he has absolutely no focus whatsoever.
I mean, what's with the title sequence in this film? It's a shot of the Manhattan skyline with the World Trade Center represented by two lights shining straight up into the sky. Okay, that's a moving tribute to the World Trade Center and everyone who died, but what in the freakin' hell does it have to do with a film about a drug dealer, Monty (Edward Norton), figuring out how to spend the last few days of his life before he's sent off to prison? Yes, the film takes place in New York, but what difference does that make? And can you say "a little late"? Man, that's Hollywood for you: a year-and-a-half later they finally get their tribute out, tacked onto the beginning of an irrelevant film like a 7-Up ad. Nice timing.
Monty decides to pal around with his two best friends, Jakob (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and Francis (Barry Pepper). Jakob is a teacher and Francis is a stockbroker. I guess the mystery of the film is whether or not Monty's girlfriend Naturelle (Rosario Dawson) was the one who ratted him out to the cops. Until the audience discovers the answer to that question, it's treated to endless conversations that drag on forever, delineating Lee's ideas about life and love like a drunk exposing himself to unsuspecting passersby. Lee even goes so far to steal a scene from one of his own movies. You know, the one where a character goes through all the people he can't stand: the brothers, the Koreans, the Jews.... Didn't I see that in "Do the Right Thing"?
I've heard of cinematic masturbation, but in "25th Hour" Spike's finally hit the right mix of ambition and flexibility to do nothing less than cinematically blow himself.
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